A £1 ticket levy that could save our small music venues – we must make it happen

It’s such a simple idea, the only wonder is why on earth wasn’t it implemented years ago.
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We now routinely have to pay well over £100 for tickets to see the biggest bands in concert at major arenas and stadiums, but at the other end of the scale, the small venues which once nurtured those very same performers, are clinging on by the fingernails, and some have already gone under.

Imagine a £1 levy from every ticket sold to a gig at a major venue was in place and then handed down to support those grassroots places.

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Last year I saw Bruce Springsteen at Murrayfield Stadium - 60,000 fans were there, so that one single gig could have netted £60,000 to help our local venues. Factor in the revenue from gigs by Harry Stiles and Beyonce and the tally hits £180,000 - and that’s before we’ve even reached for a calculator to tot up the levy from tickets to the 14,000 Hydro in Glasgow, the SECC, Hampden Park,and the TRNSMT festival. There’s a pot of gold sitting there to be disbursed.

The Ghost Train on stage at the Kings in Kirkcaldy - a key venue for music (Pic: Cath Ruane)The Ghost Train on stage at the Kings in Kirkcaldy - a key venue for music (Pic: Cath Ruane)
The Ghost Train on stage at the Kings in Kirkcaldy - a key venue for music (Pic: Cath Ruane)

And, not one single levy would be a barrier to anyone attending those gigs - let’s be honest it’s loose change compared with the laugh-out-loud, non-negotiable booking fees - but the benefits would be immense, so let’s make it happen.

Funding for our creative sector is a mess and always has been. There are big winners, but many losers while so many venues just fly under the radar with little more than a patronising pat on the head every now and then.

Music charity Music Venue Trust (MVT) wants a £1 levy applied to tickets for stadium and arena tours with capacities over 5000, with proceeds going to venues in need through its Pipeline Investment Fund. I’d go further and ensure every single venue got something from that vast pot.

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Angus Robertson MSP is on record as saying it was “absolutely right to highlight that new thinking” was needed after a pandemic which drove many venues to the very brink - but since he just happens to be Scotland’s Culture Minister he has to go further and make this happen. Now.Want an example of how it works? Check out France where major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale to a fund supporting various projects, including grants for grassroots venues.

In Fife alone we have some brilliant venues doing amazing things to keep music live. Their commitment and passion are astonishing - sadly their funding is barely visible. I will never stop shouting about how brilliant the Kings Theatre is, and how important it is to Kirkcaldy’s creative scene, but it gets not a dime in financial support from anywhere.

Look at the work also going into sustaining live gigs at the Polish Club, home of Kirkcaldy Acoustic Music Club, at PJ Molloys in Dunfermline, and the Green Hotel in Kinross, and even smaller, quirkier venues such as A Couple O’ Mugs in the Olympia Arcade - where you can enjoy vibrant, amazing nights out listening to an astonishingly diverse range of acts.

All of them dance on a financial shoestring, and the sudden closure of the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh will have shaken them all. Two decades of support for music gone. That loss was a wake-up call.

Music cannot be just about the biggest bands in the biggest arenas, and neither can it only be for people able to cough up in excess of £100 to be there.

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